Simple Recipes for Weeknights

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Simple Dinner Tip #6

Be on the look out for easy (and sometimes even healthy) ways to succumb to your cravings.

On busy, stressful days I want nothing more than a big slice (or two) of gooey pizza. But I can’t very well go ordering delivery twice a week. Instead, I look for simple and comforting yethealthy alternatives. On those days, to help me resist the urge to call for delivery, I try to find other comforting solutions like breakfast-for-dinner (a veggie-packed omelet with oozing brie) or even some chunks of cheese, bread, red pepper jelly and a big crunchy salad.

Super-comforting, easy and healthy is this Gallo Pinto from Seasonal and Savory, which I now make at least once every two weeks.

Polenta is one of those stick-to-your-ribs kinds of foods. When I load it up with cheddar cheese, I know I’m going to be satisfied. Best of all, it only takes about 10 minutes to make, like in this comforting twist on Shrimp and Grits: Shrimp with Cheddar Polenta and Asparagus.

Shrimp with Cheddar Polenta and Asparagus

Simple Dinner Tip #7

Cook foods that will wait for you.

The hardest thing (to me) about cooking for my family is that I can’t seem to get them to all sit down when dinner’s ready. Either there’s a diaper emergency that needs to be dealt with or a pre-schooler who isn’t convinced that play time is over or a husband who needs to send one more email.

More than once I’ve been dismayed to sit down with everyone 20 minutes after dinner was ready. I’m then so unhappy with the results: dry chicken breasts, cold spaghetti, mushy vegetables. Some things just don’t take well to sitting around.

Strategies for letting food wait for you:

Chicken thighs will stay moister than chicken breasts if they have to sit in the oven for a few extra minutes.

Roasting veggies instead of steaming or boiling gives you a few minutes more flexibility.

Remove rice or mashed potatoes from the heat and top them with a lid to keep them warm for well over 10 minutes.

Toss noodles with a bit of oil if you think they’ll have to sit for long. This prevents sticking. Pouring some boiling water over them just before serving will re-heat them.

Oven-roasted salmon

Here’s a dinner that is all cooked in the oven and that will wait for you if you’re not ready when it is. Interestingly, it uses salmon which is not normally a patient protein. However, the method of cooking (you start with a hot oven and then turn it right off halfway through cooking) yields perfectly cooked salmon that is happy to wait in a warm oven for a few minutes while you round up the family.

Simple Dinner Tip #8

Plan! Plan! Plan!

Before going to the grocery sit down for 20 minutes and sketch out what you’re going to make over the next few days.

Think about leftovers.

Think about simple entrees and more interesting side dishes.

Think about quick-cooking and no-cook foods.

Think about meals that you know how to cook quickly so you can set a timer and know that dinner will be done in a flash.

Think about foods that you can cook in the oven rather than those that you need to attend to on the stove top.

Think about adding some comfort to your meals so that you won’t be tempted to turn to delivery or fast food.

Think about foods that are o.k. if not served immediately when they’re ready.

Having a plan will make grocery shopping easier and it will make cooking simple recipes for your family easier.

For more quick and easy dinner tips, check out this video of me, Katie’s Cucina and Jane’s Adventures in Dinner:

What are your best tips for quick and easy weeknight meals?

Do you have a favorite go-to ingredient? A favorite quick and easy recipe that you make all the time?

This post is part of BlogHer's The Smart Mom's Guide to Being Busy editorial series, made possible by Rice Krispies.

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